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Pain Management Health Center

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FDA Panel Nixes 'Abuse-Proof' OxyContin

Experts Say Special Coating May Not Stop Abuse of Pain Relief Drug
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

May 6, 2008 -- A panel of expert advisors to the FDA took a dim view Monday of efforts by OxyContin's manufacturer to market a new form of the prescription painkiller designed to cut down on tampering and abuse.

The deliberations were a setback for the firm, Purdue Pharma. It was stung a year ago when the company and three of its executives pleaded guilty to illegally hiding the addictive potential of the drug, which is a narcotic.

The company now wants to sell a new form of the drug coated in a plastic-like polymer that prevents potential drug abusers from easily grinding tablets into a fine powder. That makes it hard to snort the drug or "cook" it for intravenous injection.

When it is "cooked," it forms a gelatin ball that is difficult to draw into a syringe. But the coating does not affect how the tablets dissolve in the gut, so patients would still be able to use the drug for pain relief, the company said.

Sales and Abuse Up

Sales of oxycodone, including several generic forms as well as Purdue Pharma's brand name OxyContin, have shot up since its extended-release form was approved in 1996. According to the FDA, sales peaked at 42.2 million prescriptions last year, and with them abuse rates have also gone up.

More than 12% of 18- to 25-year-olds reported using the drug for nonmedical reasons in 2006, according to federal figures. Those figures also estimate that 500,000 Americans try oxycodone recreationally for the first time each year.

Purdue Pharma officials tried to show that the polymer cut down on the amount of active drug that an addict could extract from a tablet.

"We can argue that we have met some degree of tamper resistance. But the abuse resistance is yet to be determined," said J. David Haddox, MD, Purdue Pharma's vice president of risk management and health policy.

Data Criticized

But while experts supported the idea of tablets that are hard to misuse while keeping OxyContin available for pain patients, they said the company failed to show that the new form would cut down on abuse in the real world.

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